By Staci Welch-Bartley
“I have been stuck in a toxic relationship for years because of my religion,” said a courageous woman attending our webinar. I immediately began to feel tears well up in my eyes, and my heart experienced a tug of major deep emotions. You see those are familiar feelings for me. I too was that woman trapped in an unhealthy relationship because of my religion more than 15 years ago.
I grew up in a Mormon household where thankfully, there was much love and support present. Home was always a place I loved to be.
My father died when I was 7-years-old, leaving my mother with me and my four older siblings, a mortgage, and no life insurance.
In the Mormon faith, when you marry it is not just for time, but for all of eternity IF you remain faithful throughout your life. As a family, we clung to our religious beliefs because they were all we knew, and they worked to ease the pain of it all. I remember specifically the feelings of assurance I felt as a child being told that I would see my dad and we would all be a family again. Beliefs like these comforted not only my heart, but the hearts of us all. I promised to be faithful FOREVER!
At the age of 20, I married according to the tenants of my faith; i.e., I was committed to living righteous, virtuous, and ensuring that I raise my children in a faithful home. Within the first 6 months of my marriage, I had that sick feeling inside with a voice deep inside asking, “What have you done?” However, this thought was countered by, “You married for time and all eternity work it out!” and “Don’t screw up your life forever!”
Over the course of the next 15 years, my husband and I had a total of five children and the marriage had become more and more volatile in spite of me following the tenants of my religion. Attending the temple regularly, fasting and praying reverently, serving my fellow man, and attending to my family and church duties like a champ. Oh, the hours I spent pleading with God to please save me from this situation I found myself in. I was paralyzed by the fears and beliefs within me, the longing for answers and peace were at times unbearable.
Then I met a man I owe my life to…Gary Acevedo. Gary facilitated courses and workshops around personal empowerment. One day as me and about 20 others sat in a circle, and Gary said something that became a huge epiphany for me. “We believe what we are taught,” he said. I instantly felt defensive in response to this phrase. “If you were born in India, you would believe the cow to be sacred, and you certainly would not be making a burger with extra cheese out of it!” “If you were born in parts of Asia you would believe in Buddha.” Gary went along this track of thinking pointing out many beliefs that we hold because they have been taught to us. And then the phrase that made me feel free…“Religion should add to your life, not hold you prisoner. Be brave enough to challenge your beliefs and honor what you know in your heart. For this is where creation shares with you who you really are and opens you up to the potential that you contain within. When you follow this path of truth, there will be no conflicts only internal peace.”
I ended my marriage over the next 18 months. I discovered that God loved me because I am me!
I have no regrets or upset about my upbringing. It is all a part of who I am and have become. And I am so grateful I mustered up the courage to challenge my deep religious prison I had built around my life and embraced my life’s work, Lease On Love. It would have not happened otherwise. The universal teachings of love, family, honesty, kindness that were taught to me as a child, still bless my life to this day. Good is always good!
Courageous soul, if you are feeling like a prisoner, go within and listen to the musings of your heart. Take BOLD action based on what you KNOW. The rest will take care of itself.